I write poetry because I like it. I still have poems that were written when I was a child.
I was raised by idealist parents with a strong sense of social justice. In my teens I wrote poetry about saving the whales, nuclear war, aboriginal land rights and child abuse. No one outside of my family saw these poems – they were an exploration of the issues I saw in the world, they were me trying to understand the world and trying to express the injustice I saw. They were never written for a wide readership and having my family’s praise was enough for me.
At school my poems were deemed unworthy of any credible grade…and so I stopped writing poems, opting instead for short stories. But I read poetry, I relished in poem’s lyricism and symbolism, their ability to distill and capture the turbulent emotions I felt as an awkward teenager.
In my final year of secondary school I took an English Literature class where our teacher encouraged, no – demanded, we read poems aloud…in class! You can imagine the horror this planted in her students. Thankfully, we were a small class, comprising only of girls, and our teacher created a safe place in which to find our reading and poetic voices. A kind of magic was created that breathed life into the poems. I started writing poetry again, privately, secretly, self-consciously.
I wrote nonsense poems, I played with sounds, I wrote letters as poems and never sent them, I wrote about nature, I wrote about family. The poetry wasn’t very good, but I enjoyed the process. By the time I was struck by my first real heartbreak, I had a language and outlet for these emotions…and so followed a series of tragically sad and terrible poems. These were very private poems of vulnerability, pain, love, hatred and loss. These poems were therapy. When I had my own family there came poems of hope and joy, simpler poems of colours, lifecycles, the sea, of a world renewed and the nature of love. Life as a new mother was a busy life and I found myself writing poetry less and less.
Poetry had been my response to the world, to myself, to my circumstance. My early poetry was naively woeful – I put this down to being part of my poetic apprenticeship – something best kept private, but very definitely required in order to develop and hone my skill. More recently, the quality of my poems have been reasonable, passable, publishable even (see Perceptions: A Magazine of the Arts: 2013 for my most recently published piece).
Here’s a recent poem about colour and race:
A RUBY INSIDE
His skin is chocolate brown
Glowing honey at the edges
Of his feet, of his hands
Me, I’m just one colour
The pink of my inside barely registers
Against the flat pink of my skin
But he hides a ruby inside
In his mouth, in his eyes
Keep an eye out for my blog on Monday where I begin to look at more technical aspects of poetry.
Photo credit: Wallpaper Fantasy